UNITED END TOUR ON A HIGH
As I was walking up to the Aviva Stadium in Dublins Fair City, I felt the excitement from the fans as I walked through the prestigious D4 area. It’s been 7 years since Man Utd have played in Dublin and that was to open the beautiful redeveloped Aviva Stadium to play against a League of Ireland XI. The mood on the streets left me feeling as though Matt Busby Way had been moved to Ireland for one night only. In a game that was full of changes once half time came upon us, I felt as though it would be appropriate to reward a Man of The Match (MOTM) in each half. First Half MOTM – Antonio Valencia Second Half MOTM – Marouane Fellaini United started out in the first half with a 3-5- 2 formation, which smothered the opposition. Sampdoria couldn’t really get going in the first half due to excellent tactics deployed by Mourinho and the quality of the players on show. Antonio Valencia in the right-wing back role was amazing. He was up and down all game, as he was the only one who lasted the full 90 mins, driving at defenders with conviction and raw pace. He also made a 60-yard run for United’s first goal, breaking from a saved indirect free kick awarded to Sampdoria just 6 yards out, as Daley Blind’s pass put David De Gea in trouble. The Ecuadorian wing back broke free, passing the ball to Mkhitaryan who played a delightful ball to Darmian. Mkhitaryan continued his run into the box, whilst Darmian put back in a cross from the left-hand side for the Armenian to head home for United’s opener. The new signings looked very good, Lindelof looked assured at the back, especially in the three. Matic didn’t look off the pace at all, stopping attacks happening in the opposition half. Lukaku made some great runs, looking for the ball in the channels and showing some good first touches. De Gea had 100% distribution in the first half, he didn’t misplace a pass! Andres Pereira was the weak link in the first half. Whether it was a change in role due to Matic playing deeper or was targeted by the opposition, I’m not sure. Pogba grew into the game, playing some delightful passes and showing some quick feet. United looked quick, well organised and always a constant threat. Second half saw a raft of changes from Mourinho, which was to be expected as it was a friendly and he’s trying to build up minutes for his players. United’s tactics changed throughout the second half, as they went to more of a 4-5- 1 formation. Sampdoria did look more threatening and deservedly pulled a goal back through Dennis Praet. Fellaini, who came on at half time, bossed the show. His simple 5-10 yard passes were spot on, winning aerial battles, breaking up play and overall energy in the midfield made him a real threat. He was instrumental in United’s second goal, breaking up an attack from Sampdoria on United’s left, playing the ball to Martial who ran at the Sampdoria defence and picked Mata out at the edge of the box, who swept the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box. Mata & Herrera, who were coming back from injury, looked sharp and there was some neat passing from both. Martial still needs to work on his end product but never shied away from seeking the ball. Although Jose will have a good idea of who is going to start versus Real Madrid this coming Tuesday 8 th of August in the Super Cup, I’m sure one or two players will have caused him to rethink some of his starting 11. From a fans perspective, there is a lot to be excited about. Pace, power and a winning mentality is now in the squad, which makes any Manchester United & Jose Mourinho team a threat.